Bonding by branding

In an operating room, two scrubbed surgeons examine a backlit X-ray of a lung. One of them, older and bespectacled, notes that if they are to proceed as planned, the patient will suffer significant bleeding.

In an operating room, two scrubbed surgeons examine a backlit X-ray of a lung. One of them, older and bespectacled, notes that if they are to proceed as planned, the patient will suffer significant bleeding.

Gears churn in the younger doctor’s head, his eyes still focused on the fi lm. Then he offers an idea. “What if we transplant the cells endoscopically?” he asks.

The senior surgeon looks at him and raises an impressed eyebrow, taken by this young resident’s initiative.

Or rather his “initiaTive.” The scene is one of three television spots  that began airing last week as part of Temple’s new $2.5 million branding campaign – a local multimedia blitz that includes cable and broadcast network commercials, radio spots, full pages in newspapers and regional editions of business magazines and billboards.

Instead of showing off the university itself, the billboards, print ads and TV spots feature a single enterprising word to describe alumni, such as “creativity” and “inspiration.” One T in each word is replaced by the ubiquitous school logo.

“The Temple ‘T’ is such an icon within the region that you almost don’t need anything else except that white ‘T’ on the red background,” said John Gilbert, creative director of the Harrisburg- based advertising agency Neiman Group, the company charged with crafting the campaign. “Thank God the school isn’t named ‘Quincy’ or something like that.”

The decision to burnish the Temple brand as well as highlight alumni comes at a time of greater concentration on alumni donations and the school’s reputation, which forced the campaign’s architects to diverge from typical university marketing.

Those types of advertisements usually brag about the institutions themselves and aim to boost enrollment. Gilbert’s ads also feature what he calls “three under a tree” — shots of students enjoying the verdant campus atmosphere. Two Temple advertising campaigns in the past aimed to boost applications. “I could have gone anywhere, but I chose Temple” and “Temple students: They’re just smarter.”

But with a steadily climbing number of applicants and the largest student body in history, resources devoted to another enrollment campaign would have been capital better used, said Mark Eyerly, chief communications officer at Temple, whose office was involved in the creation of the ads.

“The intent for the university here is to say ‘Let’s leverage that strength [of enrollment] and build on that brand,’” Eyerly said. The culmination of efforts began more than two years ago under the administration of former President David Adamany. While here, he focused on augmenting Temple’s endowment and earning the school a place in the coveted heights of America’s top universities.

Adamany recognized the modest alumni donation rate during his incumbency and explained it in the 2001 “President’s Self Study and Agenda.” He wrote, “After graduation, many students feel little emotional connection to their university.”“While there is no specific call to action, we’re hoping that alumni will look at this, will feel an emotional connection and feel inspired to get involved by volunteering or donating or participating,” Eyerly said.The ads, which are set to run until November, mostly target a highly-educated, upper-middle class demographic, said John Camilleri, vice president of Harmelin Media, the company that provided the distribution strategy.

By placing print ads in local versions of eminent business magazines like Forbes and networks like CNN and Discovery Channel, the message hopes to reach both willing donors and those in the region who have clout. “We want people in the Philadelphia area to think more highly of the university, have more positive perceptions of it, rank it as one of the top schools in the area,” Amy Muntz, strategic planner at Neiman Group, said.Preparatory research for the campaign conducted by the Office of Communications found that even Temple alumni don’t view themselves as path breakers.

Both alumni and general residents in the area were more likely to perceive Temple grads as hard working and self-made than they were to associate them with qualities of leadership.

“Clearly in Philadelphia, you go into any major law firm, doctor’s practice, media organization – the place is full of major [Temple] alumni,” Eyerly said.

“It’s true they’re leaders and make things happen. But the image is just not instinctive to reality.”

Neiman Group conducted additional research to find how graduates thought they benefited from a Temple education and what non-alumni thought of Temple grads.“They all felt they were much more mature,” Muntz said. “They could do anything. They felt very confident.” In a word, as many involved in the campaign say, they had moxie.

“What you see is a vignette, always of someone who’s going that extra little bit to get to the right answer or solve the medical problem or make the piece of art,” Muntz said of the television spots. “It’s someone who’s going that extra step.”For the print ads, writers took a minimalist style to draw a strong connection between features of archetypal
alumni and the Temple brand.

And except for the commercial in the doctor’s office, the TV spots feature no dialogue. “Because with Temple grads, it’s action, not words,” Gilbert said. The Office of Communications will assess the effectiveness of the campaign when they conduct another survey in the next few months, which will ask respondents if they see Temple grads as self-starters.

“What we really want to do with this campaign is build a sense of pride in Temple, to really give Temple the recognition that it deserves,” Muntz said.

Andrew Thompson can be reached at

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